NEW YORK (Reuters) - Enigmatic Frenchman Gael Monfils extended his untroubled U.S. Open run by taming seventh-seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-5 7-6 (6) 7-5 on Tuesday to reach the quarter-finals without dropping a set.
Monfils, seeded 20th, stayed away from the flashy highlight reel shots he is known for and in favour of a more workmanlike approach to stop the player dubbed "Baby Fed" for his all-around game that resembles Swiss maestro Roger Federer.
The Frenchman could now meet the real Federer in the last eight if the 17-times grand slam winner wins his fourth round clash later on Tuesday against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut.
Such a match would present and intriguing contrast of styles given the controlled calm of Federer's play to the frenetic Monfils, whose game can be wildly entertaining or maddening depending on his mood.
"He's definitely the legend of tennis," said Monfils, looking ahead to a possible meeting with Federer. "I think right now he's the greatest tennis player we ever had, and for me it's always challenging to play against him.
"It's always great, because no matter what, I will say to my children, I played against him."
World number one Novak Djokovic has said that Monfils is the only player he would buy a ticket to watch and he is not alone.
In many ways Monfils is a tennis genius but his creativity on the court can often be described as abstract.
Ever the showman, Monfils, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Monday, has produced a library of logic-defying shots and been labelled as one of game's great natural talents.
But for all the superlatives and praise the Frenchman's resume marks him out as journeyman, a player with a modest five career titles who has yet to reach a grand slam final.
"It's easy to say but I think every time I'm the same," said Monfils, denying he was taking a more serious approach this year at Flushing Meadows. "I will say I'm a bit more lucky than I was maybe sometime in the past. ... I haven't changed a lot. I just play maybe solid today, but I'm still the same."
Monfils had the only break chance in a tight opening set and did not waste the opportunity going up 6-5 and then holding serve for a 1-0 lead.
After trading breaks in the second the set went to a tiebreaker where the 23-year-old Bulgarian charged ahead 6-4 and looked poised to level the match until Monfils swept the next four points to grab control.
The lanky Frenchman closed out the contest with another break when Dimitrov double-faulted, sending him back to the U.S. Open quarter-finals for the first time since 2010.
"I'm happy because I played good. I think I played solid." said Monfils. "I think I hit better the ball day after day; served better.
"I keep things simple in my head, so obviously is working.
"It is pure luck, you know, to have not dropped a set. So you need to have it sometime, and I hope I will have more."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)